Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on September 18, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 11:28-44. As we begin, let’s catch ourselves up to speed by way of review. John 11 is all about the resurrection of Lazarus. Over the last two Sunday we have learned these things from the text:
John 11:28-44 – “When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” 38Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
I want to begin this morning by drawing your attention to two verse 33, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept.”
For many of us, this is not a hard picture to have in our mind. Many of us have been to a number of funerals. Some of those funerals are harder than others. Perhaps the hardest funeral for me was my cousin Andrew’s. In 2003 he was 19 years old, and was the kindest young man you could ever know. On the day of his death he was in my grandfather’s machine shed working on some project and the power-tool that he was holding shorted and he was electrocuted. I still recall the phone call from my mom. I was in Des Moines working at the Attorney General’s Office. We, of course, drove the four hours down to Lawson, Missouri just outside of Kansas City for the visitation and the funeral. I held it together pretty well until the funeral. I recall standing in front of his mom and dad (my Aunt and Uncle) and his two brothers and sister and seeing the grief in their eyes and I couldn’t keep it in any longer. Tears just poured out. My heart broke because their hearts were broke.
We see the something similar today in our text with Jesus. As he gazed upon Mary and the tears running down her face, and the grief in her eyes. And as he gazed upon the crowds and the tears in their eyes, Jesus, the Son of God, was moved to tears.
Isaiah 53:3 says this about Jesus, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;”
What an amazing truth, our Jesus, our God, is a God of compassion. The pain that we feel, he feels. We love to talk about the sovereignty of God and the authority of Christ, but shame on us if we forget about the compassion of our King. This is the Good Shepherd we read about last month who loves his sheep. And his sheep Martha and Mary are hurting. He doesn’t say suck it up, he weeps with them.
And let us not forget that Jesus knows how the next few minutes will play out. He knows what the future holds. He knows that Lazarus will rise again, for that is the Father’s will and that is what Jesus will do in just a matter of seconds, yet despite this funeral dripping with sovereignty, Jesus wept. Why? Because God is love, and their pain is real.
This is something that some of us must get beyond. Believing in the sovereignty of God does not equate to stoicism. An all knowing/all powerful God and the presence of tears are not mutually exclusive. In the midst of our struggles and through our tears we must see as it says in Hebrews 4:15-16, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” This is our Savior. This is our God.
However, the tears of Jesus, are more complex than just sentimentality. In verse 33 we see the emotion of Jesus to be described as “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” The Greek word behind this phrase is embrimaomai (em-brē-mä'-o-mī). It means to snort with anger, to groan with indignation. Yes, his heart grieved for some, but he was also displeased with others.
My guess is that many of us have experienced this at funerals in the past. Our hearts break for those who have lost a loved one, but as we sit and listen during the funeral to the mishandling of the Word of God and the false hopes being given by false teachers and the blasphemies that uttered by so called Pastor's or Priest, we groan with indignation and weep for those we love.
The Call of Christ
It is at this point that Jesus takes command of the circumstances. This was the moment that we have been waiting for. In verse 39 we see Jesus command them to take away the stone. Martha tries to stop him because of the odor.
Lets stop and think about this for just a second. Jesus is about to do something extraordinary in the life of Martha, something that her heart desperately aches for, and she tries to derail the whole thing over something as trivial as a smell.
I would like to think that Martha is the only one whose faith is so easily derailed, but unfortunately we are all guilty of being Marthas, ignoring the command of God because it would be awkward. The words to Martha, are words for us, ““Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” And the rolling away of the stone would be a display of her faith. The rolling away of the stone was to be the evidence of her faith.
After they removed the stone, Jesus prays. Why? Verse 42, “but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” Jesus wanted to make it clear that what he was about to do was in the name of the God. This event would be one of thousands of signs that Jesus is not just a man, but he is the Son of Man.
And with that Jesus called “Lazarus, come out.” And Lazarus, who had been dead four days, who had already begun the natural process of returning to the dust, heard the call of Christ and obeyed.
As I was studying, I ran across an interesting question. If Jesus would not have said the name Lazarus,how many other dead people would been raised that day? Obviously this question is silly, but it does emphasize a point. Jesus commanded, and a dead man obeyed. No one has this type of authority except God. The call of Christ was and is the call of God.
And let us not forget that this event was not done in isolation. It was done in front of dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who were coming out of Jerusalem to mourn with tragic and unforeseen death of of young Lazarus. So often, the wise of this world clammier for evidence, but rarely will those “scientific” agnostics ever look at the historical Jesus.
Very few, if any legitimate historian denies that Jesus of Nazareth was a real man. The historical proof is just too overwhelming, and the Gospels that testify about Jesus were written during the life of those who walked with Christ. John who penned this story was standing in the sea of faces as he watched these events unfold. The bottom line is that Jesus raised a dead man four days after his death. No one on the planet, other than Jesus, has every done such a thing. And it just so happens this man also claims to be God and pathway to eternal life.
Now what is important in understanding the depth of what is going on is this moment is two fold. There is both a physical truth and a spiritual truth behind this event. If you recall, the previous chapter, John 10, is all about Jesus being the Good Shepherd and His sheep hearing his voice and following him. It is no accident that the Apostle John, after unpacking the truth in John 10, gives us a miracle that supports Jesus' claim. If you recall John laid out the same thing in John 8 and John 9. In John 8 Jesus claimed to be the light of the world, and then in John 9 Jesus gave the blind beggar the light of his eyes, his sight.
So let us begin by look at the spiritual truth of Lazarus' resurrection. Prior to believing in Jesus Christ, we are all spiritually identical to Lazarus. We are dead. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” Colossians 2:13 says the same, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh.” Jesus spoke of this reality also in Luke 9:60 when he said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” And also when he called the Pharisees, white washed tombs in Matthew 23:27. We also saw it last chapter in John 10:10 when Jesus says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Without Christ, no life. Dead.
Because of the fall, because of sin, because of our sin, we are spiritually dead when it comes to God. Sure some people may look religious, or do “good” things, but until we have an encounter with Jesus Christ, our heart does not beat for the Lord. As it says in Ezekiel 36:26 our heart is stone.
And the only way for us to pass from spiritual death to spiritual life is the effectual and loving call of Jesus Christ. The picture of Lazarus' resurrection is a picture of your spiritual resurrection. At an appointed time of God, we have an encounter with Jesus whereby Christ commands, “Phil, come forth.” And upon hearing the call of my Shepherd, I walk out of the spiritual tomb of my life and stand before my Lord, alive for the first time. I do not invite Jesus into my heart, Jesus calls me out of darkness and into his marvelous light.
And in the moment of my new life in Christ, who gets the credit? Did Lazarus have anything to do with his resurrection? No. Neither do I. Christ gets the credit for calling me unto him. Jesus has already said this himself in John 5:21, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”
And this is what happens every time when the Gospel is preached and people believe. The loving call of Christ is commanding them to come forth. To live.
Now, as I said, there is also a physical reality to the resurrection of Lazarus. For this, let us turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,d that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
They key phrase for our purpose today is found in verse 16, “And the dead in Christ will rise first.” Those who are in Christ will experience a physical resurrection just like Lazarus'. Why? Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and conquered sin and death, our resurrection is as good as finished. We are merely just waiting for the trumpet to sound. The words of 1 Thessalonians 4 are identical to the words of Jesus to Martha. The resurrection of Lazarus was a sneak peak into the resurrection of the elect on the last day. If you are loved by Jesus, as Lazarus was loved by Jesus, then this is your future reality. And we at Cornerstone to commanded to encourage one another with these words. When a Christian dies, we do not grieve as others do who have no hope. If we do, I wander if Christ upon watching us groans with indignation. No, if our loved one is in Christ, then there is no sting in death. For to be absent from the Body is to be with the Lord, and the day will come when their bodies will be reunited with their souls and they will stand before Christ ...FOREVER!